Monday, September 19, 2011
The SdKfz.251 was the standard armored personnel carrier for the German Army in WWII. Compared to its closest competitor (the US M3 half-track), it had better armor protection, but poorer cross-country mobility. Interestingly, while many countries experimented with the APC concept -- such as Italy and Japan -- none deployed them in the numbers the US or Germany did, unless they were supplied via Lend-Lease (such as in the case of the British, and to a lesser extent the Soviets).
The 37mm PAK 35/36 was the standard anti-tank cannon of the German army in the pre-war and early war period. When it was developed in the mid-30s, it possessed adequate anti-tank performance for the era, but quickly grew obsolete, especially when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Although able to deal with older tanks like the T-26, it was completely inadequate when fighting T-34s or KV-1s (dubiously referred to as the "Doorknocker" when combating these tanks, indicating it's paltry performance against the armor of these tanks).
Early on, the decision was made to combine this anti-tank gun with the chassis of the standard German APC, to develop a platoon commander's vehicle, able to support dismounts with direct fire from its 37mm cannon (firing High Explosive shells), or provide limited anti-tank capability at the platoon level. While inadequate when combating tanks, the 37mm would still have been effective fighting lighter armored vehicles, such as other APCs, armored cars, and even light tanks in some circumstances.
Both Tamiya kits -- the SdKfz.251C (#35020) and the PAK 35/36 (#35035) are what you might call "Golden Oldies." Both kits were issued in the mid '70s (1973 and 1974 respectively), at a time when Tamiya had very little competition in the 1/35 scale, and only a bit more competition from the likes of Revell and Monogram in the US (some kits were allegedly 1/35 -- particularly from Monogram, but many were actually 1/32), Airfix in the UK (again 1/32), and domestically in Japan from the likes of Bandai (1/48 mostly) and Nichimo (1/35). Later in the 1970s the field would be joined by Italeri, who had interited their first kits from Peerless Max.
For a long time both kits were the only game in town if you wanted either one. That changed in the '00s when Dragon began to release its series of half-tracks (also joined by AFV Club from Taiwan, and even Zvezda from Russia). Unfortunately these kits did not age well when compared to the competition. The 251 is a scale foot too narrow (though it certainly looks the part, and the scale issue is not as apparent to me), and the interior is very sparse, to say the least, lacking many interior parts, such as the seat backs for the infantry benches! The PAK comes off a bit better, and has lots of nice detail. Still not up to current standards (the gun shield is molded as a solid plate, when it should be 2 spaced armor plates), but the PAK retails at $7.50, and it's hard to get anything in this scale anymore that cheap. Similarly, the half track goes for $17 retail, again rather cheap in this era. These are great kits for kids to get into the hobby, while still being cheap enough for experienced modelers that want a challenge.
One of the nice things about the PAK 35/36 kit is that it comes with mounting parts to convert the Tamiya SdKfz.251C/1 into a /10. As this came out in 1974, this might be the very first commercial conversion kit!
I've had both of these kits in my "stash" for some time, long enough for Dragon to release these very kits and make them obsolete. As can be seen in the photograph above, the SdKfz.251 box has weathered quite a bit in the years of sitting around on store shelves and in my basement. Not liking to waste anything, I've determined to actually put these kits together, perhaps scratchbuilding the seat backs, adding racks for the 37mm ammo, and a few other details here and there.